Visions of California and the West: Selections from the Westways Auto Club Collection

VISIONS OF CALIFORNIA AND THE WEST: SELECTIONS FROM THE WESTWAYS AUTO CLUB COLLECTION

May 25–September 8, 2013

Founded over a hundred years ago, the Automobile Club of California’s Westways magazine, has played a major role in promoting the cultural attractions of the region. From 1928 to 1981 the magazine commissioned artists to create work for its cover, establishing a collection of California art that provides a unique window into the state’s cultural history. Visions of California and the West will feature approximately 60 paintings from the Westways cover art program, creating three distinct exhibits in the museum’s upstairs galleries that will focus on the natural beauty of the region, identify the changes in urban development and connect visitors with notable artists who were part of the cover art program. The work on view will trace much of the evolution in California art during the 20th century, including Impressionists such as John Frost and Alson Clark, and California Scene painters including Phil Dike, Rex Brandt and Maurice Logan. The exhibition will also feature artwork by George Bartell, Carl Oscar Borg, Neil Boyle, Gordon Brusstar, Conrad Buff, Merv Corning, Guy Deel, Maynard Dixon, James Hansen, Vanessa Helder, Ralph Hulett, Jake Lee, Peter Llyod, Maurice Logan, Dick Oden, Phil Paradise, George Post, Bill Shields, Merle Shore, Bill Tara, Don Weller and Ren Wicks.

Many of the artists featured in Visions of California and the West depicted iconic locations that would inspire tourism. Drawing natural wonders such as Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, and the dramatic coastline of Big Sur, these images not only document the landscape and lifestyle of the era, but also the history of California. This exhibition examines the geographic diversity of the West Coast looking at how artists such Rex Brandt and Phil Dike illustrated the National Parks and artists such as Maynard Dixon depicted the history of transportation in California. Part of the exhibition will also look at urban development and how artists such as Ralph Helett and Maurice Logan represented the growth of cities throughout California. While the final portion of the exhibit will present a focused look at the work of Jake Lee, one of the most prolific Westways cover artists in the 1960s and 1970s, who was able to weave together influences from his Chinese heritage with his California watercolor style.

The Westways cover art program begun in 1928 by Phil Townsend Hanna, editor of Touring Topics, now referred to as Westways. In the first few decades of the 20th century driving was a relatively new leisure activity. Recognizing the need to educate the public about touring destinations, Hanna began commissioning artists to depict leisure and recreational scenery to help promote the region. In 1981 the Cover art program turned to photography, a format the publication currently maintains. The 250-piece art collection is currently housed in the Auto Club Archives in downtown Los Angeles.